Beau Dangles

Handcrafted Jewelry — Designed to be Different


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The Possibilities of Less

Do you ever long for a bigger stash of beads? More wire? Better tools? Do you dream of all the things you could create if only …  ?

I do.

But something weird happened lately that changed my mind.

My first show of the season was quickly approaching when a dreadful truth hit: I don’t have enough new pieces. 

But that wasn’t the worst part.

I had only a skimpy supply of materials with me: wire, a few pieces of old jewelry, some glass beads, and a couple of Swarovski pearls. A gloomy prospect.

Why, oh why, I whined, hadn’t I brought more stuff? 

Like Mother Hubbard, I gazed at my almost-empty cupboard. Impending doom settled on me.

I needed new work. And I needed it now.

Out came the hammers and pliers and wire cutters. I hammered and texturized. I twisted and bent. I strung beads and coiled wire.

It took awhile, but after several mistakes I got into a creative vibe. Where I’d seen limitations I began to see designs. Lots of them. It was like someone sprinkled magic dust in the air.

By the time I finished I had 10 different pairs of earrings. Amazing. Who’da thunk all those pieces could have come from so little?

Best of all? At the show last weekend those earrings got the most attention — and brought the most sales.

Go figure.  Sometimes less really is more.   🙂


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A Six Pack of Earrings

One of the reasons I like making earrings is the oh-so-quick results. Well, “quick” compared to the hours and sometimes days it often takes me to design and finish a necklace.

I’ve been working on some bigger pieces lately, hit a bump in the process, so decided earrings would ease the frustration.


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Robin’s Eggs

Our resident robins raised two broods this summer, amid long months of soggy weather. The last batch of young are fledged and on their own now.

I started this necklace about the time Ma Robin was brooding her first clutch. I finally finished it today. She’s obviously a faster worker. Mind you I did a lot between times — I just couldn’t figure out how I wanted to finish it.

The main holdup was the clasp. I knew what I wanted to do but I kept putting it off. I tried some of my own variations but they didn’t work. So I googled “wire wrapped cord” and came up with a site that had just what I needed — a tutorial!

Handmade clasp

Many thanks to Erin & Eric at Lytha Studios for posting this technique. 😉


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A Desire to Wire

Sometimes the quickest way to learn something — for me, at least — is to take a class. A few weeks ago, with my renewed desire-to-wire, I signed up for Rena Klingenberg’s new online class titled “Design and Make Artistic Jewelry Components.”

I’m an avid reader of her Jewelry Making Journal and I’ve learned a lot. But I also know there’s a heck of a lot I don’t know. That’s why her course appealed to me.

The lessons are very well structured — videos, printable lesson plans and detailed how-to sheets. Rena starts with the basics — learning to make simple loops, spirals, hooks, folds and an assortment of squiggles. A solid base from which to set off in new directions.

It was while I was practicing the flat fold that I wondered what would happen if I opened it up. So I did. Now, what if I wrapped it around a pen? And then scrinched it a bit here? And then a bit there? And why not add some beads. And maybe a couple of loops.

Wait a minute! Houston, we have earrings! I made some hoops and we’re done. It was love at first glance.

Pink Heart

I was truly enamoured with these delicate delights. For a day. (I am so fickle.)

I’ve been working with copper lately. What if . . . well, out came some copper wire and dyed copper pearls. Once more I made some flat folds (Rena, thank you for starting us with basics). Moments later, a new pair of heart earrings.

Copper Heart

I love these two too.

Meanwhile back in online land, I’m into Part 3 of the course making clasps and bails and surprising myself with how easy it is to learn — thanks Rena!

P.S. Eagerly looking forward to your next course. 🙂


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Wire Swirls

I’m no Wire Whisperer.

I’ve made a few pieces with wire over the years, but wrangling with it was hit and miss and before long I’d find myself returning to beads, my first love.

Maybe it’s all the rainy weather these past few months (and watching the garden turn into a rice paddy) but I dug out several spools of wire, some tools and set out to see what I might see.

Winding wire is always an easy place to start (it makes me feel like I’m actually doing something). Next I wondered how I might add some beads. Okay, maybe just one. Hmmm. What would that look like as an earring?

Not bad. I kinda like it.

Pink Swirl Earrings

My work surface always looks like a toddler’s playpen. Stuff everywhere. Sometimes this is a good thing. I laid one earring swirl down beside a coil of cotton cord. Shazam! Another idea. What would this look like as a necklace?

One swirl didn’t quite seem enough. Three seemed too much. Two, now that, as Goldilocks might say, is just right.

Pink Swirl - Necklace

P.S. The earrings sold at the Bergen Farmers’ Market yesterday. Hey, this is fun! 😉


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Silver Leaf

Silver LeafThe box in the corner of the shelf holds more than two dozen bags of glass leaves. Brown ones. Green ones. White and bronze. Red and grey. Top drilled. Side drilled. Matte, glossy and two-tone.

I accumulated this lot over several years but in all that time I’ve used hardly any. Whatever was I thinking?!?

The other day I pulled out one bag. Shiny, small and heavy, these leaves caught my eye right away. What could I make with them?

I found some wire and a couple of beads left over from a recent project and set out to see what might be.

I like this design so much I’ve made several other earrings using different leaves. I’d hate to run out if another neat idea comes by so I may just have to buy some more. 😉


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New Earring Designs

Earrings are a nice quick alternative to spending hours on a necklace. They usually work up fairly quickly — in the process I sometimes discover a design or a technique I can work into a necklace or bracelet. That’s always a plus.

Besides, earrings are just fun to make. You can  play with neat shapes and colours and if the world isn’t going according to your plan, you can pound the heck out of some copper wire. 😉


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Wrap Up Your Ears

I tried my hand at something new recently — wrapping briolettes. I’ve admired the technique for some time but never tried it. Well, that’s not quite true. I had tried it but mangled the pieces so badly I gave up.

This time I kept at it until I was happier with the results.

Then I figured why not try the design with a different shape? These little glass strawberries were a bit tricky because they’re round but after a few tries I got the knack.

Have you tried something that didn’t work out the way you wanted? Did you set it aside or take it apart?

Maybe today’s the day to bring it out again. 😉


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How To: Simple Elegant Earrings

Only have 10 or 15 minutes to be creative? Try these simple but elegant earrings.

They work up quickly and can be made to go with any outfit from casual to classic.

Supplies
silver wire (sterling or plated), 20 or 22 ga
4 pearls, 6 mm
2 post-&-ball earring findings

Tools
ruler
wire cutters
round-nosed pliers

Directions

1. Cut 2 pieces of wire, each 2 inches (5 cm) long.

2. Make a loop on the end of one piece of wire.

3. Slide a pearl onto the wire.

4. Using your pliers, make a gentle rounded curve about 1 inch (2.5 cm) from the looped end of the wire. (The gentle curve allows the earring to sway; too tight and the earring dangle remains rigid.)

5. Slide on the earring finding and another pearl.

6. Make a loop on the end of the wire and you’re done!

7. Make the second earring.

Voila! You’re ready to go.

You can design any number of variations. Coloured wire? Crystals? Faceted beads? Different sizes? Hang smaller pearls off the wired loops?

Go wild. Then send me some pics — I’d love to post your designs. 🙂


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Got You Pegged

Wandered through a bead store the other day, silently swearing to myself that I ab-so-tively would not buy anything when what to my wandering eyes should appear but — well, there went my resolve.

By the time I left I had several small items. Not a lot. Really. Just enough to play with. (Gotta keep those creative muscles in shape. 🙂 )

The “pegs” are amazingly light — there’s hardly any weight to them. I bought four different colours, the two shown here as well as pale green and light mauve. I worked up the ear wires with permanently coloured copper wire.

Voila! Instant earrings.


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How Not to Crimp

A woman came by my table at the Market last week and asked if I could repair an anklet that had come apart.

I liked the colourful, dainty design. The original artist had finished the piece with a sterling silver clasp and sealed jump ring so she cared about quality.

Unfortunately her crimping technique wasn’t up to snuff. She’d cut the wire too short and it pulled free of the crimp tube.

The photo below (with the failed crimp already cut off) shows what happens if you’re not careful.

Wire pulled loose from crimp

You can see the same problem on the clasp end in the next photo — the artist cut the wire flush with the end of the crimp. A better (and more secure) technique is to let the wire extend beyond the crimp and into the first few beads.

I think the artist’s problem started with the beads. The wire would only go through the first metal bead after the crimp — the holes in the little bugle beads weren’t big enough to allow the wire to pass through twice.

Wire cut too short

So, how to solve this problem?

I started with a fresh piece of wire and restrung the beads, leaving enough wire on both ends to properly add the crimps.

Having the right tools certainly helps. In this case, a pair of good crimping pliers. They’re the funny looking pliers with two “holes” in the jaws.

I strung the wire through the crimp, through the sealed jump ring and back through the crimp. Then I put the crimp in the “hole” nearest the handle. Now the tricky part: I have to position the wires so they’re not crossed — then, when I gently press the jaw together, the wires are separated.

Next I move the crimp to the front “hole” on the pliers, placing it vertically, and gently close the pliers. The circular crimp bead is now flattened, twice, and the wire is tightly caught in position.

Keep the wires separate

Here’s the restrung anklet. The crimp beads have a strong hold on the wire so the owner should be able to wear it for many years without a problem.

Finished anklet

Sometimes taking a few extra minutes means the difference between a quality piece of jewelry and a disgruntled customer.

As with many other jewelry-making techniques, there’s more than one way to crimp a bead. Check out the crimping instructions at Beadalon. Just the opposite of how I do it 🙂


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Bead Weaver Gets Strung Out

Well, I finally done it. I strung my first necklace. Don’t know what the holdup was. Well, yes I do. I started beading as an off-loom weaver. Simple enough. Thread. Needles. Scissors. Beads. Somehow bead stringing seemed like a whole lot more work.

The wire. Well, now, just what kind of wire? There’s 7-strand and 49-strand and a bunch in between. There’s wire that kinks and wire that doesn’t. There’s different sizes. Then you need crimp beads and clam shells and crimping pliers and yada yada yada.

In other words, it was just simpler to keep on keeping on with the bead weaving. Then I made a mistake. I bought some lovely pale green stones. Smooth and cool and oh, so nice to fondle. I did buy some good wire and to my surprise I discovered some crimp beads in my bead stash. There was nothing holding me back. Except inertia.

Then I met Dwyn. Our paths crossed in cyberspace when she posted an item about my blog on beadfx. I wandered around her website and her blog and was enthralled with the beautiful pieces she was creating. Talk about inspiration.

I made the plunge. A few days ago I pulled out the stones and the wire and a lovely clasp and began to play. I tried several combinations and let each variation sit on the kitchen counter for a day or so while I pondered it.

In the meantime, I found a pair of small glass apples that I’d bought a few years ago. I was hesitant to use them because they seemed quite fragile. When one bounced off the table onto the floor and suffered no injury I figured it was safe to play with them too.

After the pondering and the playing, this is the result. Thanks, Dwyn!

Dwyn's Inspiration

Dwyn’s Inspiration